District recognizes standout staff

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 12, 2012

GROSSE POINTES — When it comes to putting in the time and effort to make sure Grosse Pointe students get the best education possible, district officials say there are hundreds of employees who go the extra mile.

During a school board meeting late last month, the district recognized 10 of those employees.

“These are just the 10 best of the best in terms of distinguished service to the district,” board Trustee Joan Dindoffer said.

The 10 teachers and staff who were chosen this year for the award, a globe figure on a platform, were Patricia Curtis-Gough, Beverly Forsyth, Michelle Hartman, Dianne McPharlin, Barry Novak, Joanna Porvin, Lisa Rheaume, Sheila Russo, Richard VanGorder and Geoffrey Young.

“You are what makes the Grosse Pointe Public School System what it is,” Superintendent Thomas Harwood said.

This is the district’s fifth year to give recognition to employees from throughout the district who have stood out in their work. 

“They are nominated by colleagues within the school system itself, and for their wonderful talents, their skills and what they give to our students on a daily basis,” Harwood said. “There were many individuals nominated for tonight, and we are fortunate to have 10 of those individuals who were recognized.

“As you go through the list of those 10 individuals … it’s phenomenal what they’re able to accomplish and what they’ve done,” he said. “With their help, it makes our school system that much better.”

Board Vice President Lois Valente read the nomination descriptions during the presentation of the awards.

Curtis-Gough and Geoffrey Young were the staff from Grosse Pointe North who made the list. 

“Patty was instrumental in creating a comprehensive system of interventions in the resource room to support student learning,” Valente said of Curtis-Gough. “She worked within the umbrella of support to create a student center at North and has served as a department chair for many years.”

Curtis-Gough has helped in a number of capacities, including volunteering her time to programs, Valente said.

Young has served as a department chair among his many teaching duties and other contributions.

“One of his greatest strengths is his ability to help students reflect on and change their behaviors,” Valente said.

“His natural curiosity and commitment to education inspires those around him to be lifelong learners,” she said during the presentation.

Forsyth, an elementary art teacher currently serving Ferry and Mason, has worked for the last 12 years as a department chair.

Valente said her “passion for excellence in art education has spanned her 30-plus year career in Grosse Pointe.”

“Beverly shares her passion for the arts with the entire Grosse Pointe community,” she said.

Rheaume, another Mason teacher, continues to seek out her own learning opportunities to better help her students.

Valente reviewed a list of her accomplishments and contributions.

“Lisa models lifelong learning by staying current with educational research and attending technology workshops,” Valente said.  

Hartman, a Montieth lab assistant, has a list of projects and work that she has done for the students in the district.

“She also seeks out student learners, trains them and assists them in implementing video announcements daily,” Valente said. “Despite all that she does, she’s extremely humble about her role and is enjoyable to work with.”

Among McPharlin’s accomplishments in her position at Maire, where she is a resource room teacher, is a homework club.

Her nominees said she is “always an advocate for her students (and) is constantly gathering resources, investigating technology solutions and sharing each new intervention with other teachers,” Valente said.

“She is always smiling, helpful and professional,” she added. “Dianne’s dedication knows no bounds.”

Russo, a classroom assistant at Defer, helps wherever the school needs her, including taking on the monthly school newsletter, according to her nomination.

“She goes above and beyond, whether coordinating lunchroom supervisors, administering ice packs, submitting and auditing payroll or helping staff members solve copier mysteries,” Valente said of the nomination’s comments.

Novak and Porvin were the recipients from the middle schools.

Novak, a coach and hall monitor at Pierce, runs an intramural sports program that gets students up and moving in the mornings before their first classes. Besides helping the students get some exercise, the students in the program are on time for their first classes each day of the program.

Porvin is a teacher at Brownell who district officials said wears a number of hats at the school.

Valente said that Brownell’s principal, Michael Dib, wrote that he has “been a principal for 18 years and Joanna is in the top 1 percent of educators.”

“I have had the privilege of working with her on a daily basis,” he said on the nomination form, adding that she puts the needs of others first.

VanGorder, who works as the district manager for building and grounds, was nominated for his work in the district, which includes playing a major supportive role at the district level.

For instance, he worked on a project involving energy use, like lighting, to save the district money, and he coordinated and modeled “green” efforts, such as recycling, Valente said.

“His expert knowledge of every building in the district is what makes him one of (Deputy Superintendent) Chris Fenton’s right-hand team members,” Valente said.